By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
 Copyright © 1997-2010
All Rights Reserved

          Normally, I would not be sitting here writing a story on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. But Belinda is sorting through everything we own to determine what can be given away, and it’s raining, so we aren’t going out today. I was standing in front of my batterie de cuisine, fixing lunch, and watching CNN do features on food. I could make something up that funny, but there it was in front of me – people expecting to be taken seriously – talking about things that are of interest to almost no one and about things that are so absurd and meaningless that I can only wonder at what kind of idiot, other than me, is watching it.

          The first useless story is told by the CNN person and the editor of a national food magazine. What, the CNN person asks, are the trends today in food? The well traveled, urbane sophisticate editor of the food magazine responds roughly as follows.

          Today the most expensive restaurants in the United States are sushi restaurants in New York City and in Los Angeles, where dinner for two is $ 500. Kiss my ass! If you really eat well and drink some rather great wine, dinner for two can be $ 500 at Morton’s Steakhouse. But sushi for two at $ 500 is simply stupid/funny/inept. Then I figured it out. Dinner for two is about $ 85. The other $ 415 is for the bullshit. Nobu Masuhisa may charge $ 500 to eat his raw fish (which is wonderful), but Nobu Masuhisa aint fixing it. Some low level line cooks/”sushi preppers” are fixing it at a restaurant that bears his name. Nobu only cooks occasionally on television. Truth to tell, he once cooked regularly, but, having made his bones and having a flair for great bullshit, he doesn’t have to slice fish anymore. He does the marketing and raises the money from the suckers and appears on television. Dinner for two at Kanayama, the best sushi restaurant in Houston, including beer, may be $ 85, and it’s wonderful. The sushi at Nobu isn’t any better than the sushi at Kanayama. But the bullshit is different, and the suckers really dig the bullshit. And believe me, I know great bullshit when I see it. For example, amongst the sushi aficionados, the bullshit is that the sushi chef/sushi prepper is some highly trained expert on the subject of fresh fish, who can spot a nematode from a mile away, and whose ethical standards are such that he would commit seppuku rather than hand you a piece of fish from yesterday’s inventory. Now that’s the start of great bullshit there. In fact, Japanese bullshit is one of the most convincingly theatrical schools of bullshit in the entire world. A Japanese person or group of people, dressed in their Full Cleveland outfits, can stage a fart ritual ceremony that will convince you that the art of the fart is at least the cultural equivalent of origami. Of course, in reality, there is no such thing as a fart ritual ceremony.

          According to the rules of Japanese bullshit, fish vetting is at least the equivalent of a Frog’s wine snobbery. In the Frog modality, one inspects wine bottle corks like a pediatrician inventorying the parts of a newborn child for birth defects. The size and shape of a glass vary according to wine variety and the social status of the Frog who is about to drink it. A fourth generation Frog would never hold a wine glass by its bowl, but touches only the very bottom round base of it to avoid the taint of any fingerprint spoliating the sublime vision of the vessel and its sacred contents. With deft and subtle gesticulation, a Frog can use that grip to swirl the wine in the glass to enhance the aroma/”nose” of the wine to suffuse the ambient air so that he can experience the epiphany of the first sniff. Its robe/color and depth of chromatic richness are the eye candy that makes a Frog tumesce in anticipation. Ultimately that first soupcon of a taste informs his palatal recollection of vintages of yesteryear and the place of this vendage in the pantheon of oenological history. If he is really good at Frog bullshit, he will tell you from which section of the vineyard the grapes came that bore the wine in this particular glass, and at what time of the day/day of the week they were picked, and whether the picker was left handed or right.

          The local joke is that if the glass were full of piss, he could tell you after only one sip whose piss it is, what, if anything is wrong with that person’s urinary tract and how long ago that person had had an orgasm.

          None of the “great” chefs of America cook in restaurants any more. Line cooks and sous chefs do their cooking according – more or less – to recipes that they developed. Chefs are replaced by kitchen managers who do paperwork (now done digitally on a computer without paper). Bean counters are the geniuses of restaurants today, teamed with marketing/sales/advert people who sell the bullshit to the expense account crowd. Great chefs only cook on television, you fool. Much of what passes for cooking at the great chefs’ restaurants today is terrible – overcooked or underdone, with spit or boogers in it depending on the mood swings of the waiters. Is that really guacamole, or does someone in the kitchen have a very productive cough? Never eat in a restaurant where you can hear people in the kitchen sneezing.

          The second trend is toward mini vegetables. We are moving away from baby vegetables to the slightly larger mini vegetables. I bet you didn’t realize that was happening, did you? Only small town rubes eat baby veggies anymore. The cognoscenti eat mini veggies. So if you go out and order baby veggies, be prepared to be hooted out of the restaurant.

          The third trend is for ordinary things to be made in a more upscale mode. In certain cities, you can get upscale pizzas and upscale hamburgers and upscale hotdogs that are made with upscale ingredients by upscale culinarians for upscale people willing to pay upscale prices. I suppose eventually someone will be deep frying chicken in truffle oil.

          The fourth trend is the exciting development of mixologists as celebrities, who are now starring at upscale eateries with upscale bars, where the upscale bar scene is as important as the upscale food. And, of course, once again, the difference is in part the improved quality of ingredients, or at least the perceived improved quality of the ingredients, the ability of the mixologist (formerly known as the bartender) to promote him/herself as a celebrity mixologist doing guest appearances at the very best upscale lounges and restaurants in town (but not yet so upscale as to disdain tips – one would think that the tip would automatically be added to the total tab to eliminate the indignity of the tipping ritual amongst the truly upscale). I’m so old that I can remember when a martini at the Oak Bar in The Plaza was only $ 10. I can also remember that I thought that was extreme. Now, thirty five years later, martinis at Muldoons are $ 10.

          With that, the food and wine “expert” returned to the Napa Valley to study wine and food pairings with someone renowned for their ability to tell bumpkins what wine to drink with their food. [Cross reference VENI, VIDI, VINO elsewhere in this compendium]

          The next bozo dredged up by CNN this day is some California nitwit with a PhD from the University of California at Davis and an uncanny ability to squeeze grant money out of politically correct foundations to “do” studies about “issues” relating to OBESITY.

          According to this person who, were you to shoot her in the head would experience absolutely no tissue damage, Americans are being victimized by restaurateurs who sell food that Americans like to eat. Lest you, with your limited intellect and shallow perception, immediately jump to the conclusion that such is the way of free market capitalism, Dr. Dipshit is quick to point out that selling food to people who like to eat is inherently exploitative and should be against both law and public policy. To be sure, these emporia of yummy, greasy comestibles daily take unfair advantage of hungry people who are able to pay for food by selling them the food that they wish to eat. The bloody shame of it all! No civilized, caring society (presumably found in California) should tolerate such a thing without at least requiring that the establishment conspicuously publish for the delectation of all and sundry a dissertation on the nutritional characteristics of each cheeseburger and biggy fries. As logic goes in California, folks would carefully study the nutrition tutorials and thereafter make intelligent food choices rather than simply eat whatever tastes good. If there are twenty to thirty items on the menu, there could be wallpaper everywhere imprinted with a nutritional guide to every bite, informing you of its tendency to clog arteries, cause weight gain amongst those who do not exercise, generate adipose tissue and cellulite, increase risks of heart disease and diabetes mellitus, and generally to foreshorten life and impair the optimum functioning of brains and penises.

          Dr. Dipshit was then asked the ultimate tough question of the interview. To what extent are the undereducated, the economically deprived and ethnic minorities exploited by these demons of gastronomic greed more than anglo saxon college graduates from wealthy suburban families? The good doctor nonsensically responded that these are among the many issues that may have an impact on the problem, and the extent of it all is not yet fully understood, but in need of extensive/expensive additional public health research. If the good doctor had said that stupid and ignorant people of little means have fewer choices and a lessened ability to make the most advantageous nutrition decisions, that correct answer would have suggested that the obvious truth is already known and that no more research money should be spent/wasted on the subject. Suffice it to say, however, that those who sell food that people eat unwisely should, in the “logic” of California, have to bear the public health costs of “our” obesity epidemic. People who eat what they like and get fat are really the victims of exploitation, not just the fucking imbeciles that everyone tends to think they are. Congress immediately started the process to enact a statute prohibiting lawsuits by fat slobs against the restaurants that they patronize every day in which they claim that their obesity is the fault of the restaurant. Such lawsuits are already being brought, and, at least in New York, the courts are not intelligent enough to dismiss them summarily as unreasonable and vexatious litigation without merit. A trial court judge in New York did throw out such a lawsuit against McDonalds, but the New York Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit and sent it back for further consideration. The court should have disbarred the lawyer who brought the lawsuit and banished the plaintiff to boot camp for a year.

          A dear friend who is an OB/GYN and who does a lot of surgery has explained to me some of the nightmare situations that really obese people encounter when they require surgical intervention. In abdominal surgery, the layers of fat need to be pulled back so that the surgeon can reach the organs that require attention. Holding this fat layer back while surgery is going on cannot be allowed to be done by hands that are needed to assist with the surgery. The fat is “fish hooked” and pulled back. The “hooks” are attached to straps that clamp on to the rail/side of the operating table. The scene looks not unlike flensing a whale that has just been caught and is being butchered on board the whaling vessel. When obese women require a surgical procedure that must be done through the vagina, the fat thighs intruding to cover the access area do not pull apart sufficiently simply by leg spreading. The hanging fat thighs have to be similarly pulled apart and held apart by similar strapping mechanisms so that adequate access to the vagina may be had. The distance from the vaginal entrance to the cervix can also be significantly greater because of the fatty tissue of the labia majora and an overhanging mons veneris chock a block with fat, necessitating on occasion inserting the forearm almost up to the elbow. Incisions frequently cannot heal because the overlay of fat tissue prevents access to fresh air and healing simply does not incur. The resulting infection can last for months and require additional surgery to clear away necrotic tissue. We should consider making high definition DVDs of surgical procedures on these folks, so that they can watch what happens to them when they need an operation. The ghastly scene would hopefully have a better effect upon them than the grisly venereal disease films that the troops had to watch years ago in an attempt to scare them away from having casual sex with local girls. Suffice it to say that any man of normal proportions ought to think twice before assuming that he could ever have an effective sexual encounter with a really large, obese woman. It just won’t reach far enough. Of course, he could simply insert his head and wiggle his ears for effect.

          The program then segued into the question of organic food, food supposedly grown/processed without the use of chemicals/with only limited use of chemicals. Of course, compost and composting are chemical substances and chemical processes, but that’s another and beside the point issue. Organic farming involves only the chemistry of nature, the natural decomposition/rotting of natural substances that result in an ultimate fertilizer in the nature of that which God intended.

          I have no quarrel with the organic food folks. I go to Whole Foods and buy organic food from time to time, when some stupid clerk there isn’t pissing me off with a dose of slacker attitude.

           What we think of as organic food sometimes is organic food and sometimes is almost organic food and sometimes not very organic food.

          What is organic food for purposes of labeling what we buy thinking that we are buying organic food is an exercise in political lobbying. As more and more upscale yuppie types get on the organic food bandwagon, the incremental demand for the more expensive organic products represents an opportunity not to be missed. It is the opportunity to exploit the “organic” designation by putting it on products that are not organic or that are quasi organic.

          There are two lobbies at war on this issue. The organic fundamentalists want food products labeled organic only if they were produced from plants that were fertilized by real animal shit or are animals that were fed a minimum of non-organic feed and no hormones. Hormones, in case you didn’t know, are introduced into the animal’s nutritional mass to enhance rapid growth. Estrogen capsules are stapled to chicken necks or placed in their food to reduce their growth cycle time and get them to market in less time and with less expense. Estrogen is what makes chickens have large, juicy, meaty breast meat, rather than the scrawny little boogers that third world people eat when and if they can catch/steal one.

            Of course, it didn’t take long for food manufacturers to realize that the more products they can label as organic, the more money from that yuppie demand pool would flow into their treasuries. And so a second lobbyist group was formed to get the FDA to permit food to be labeled organic even if it does not comply with the fundamentalists’ view of what organic food should be. And since food manufacturers have more money to spread around in Washington than organic fundamentalists, the organic standards are changing in the sense that there is dilution. The organic promise of a near chemical free diet is no longer a reliable promise.

          This is not a new phenomenon, as milk producers have for years, through similar spreading around of money in Washington, obtained changes in the so called milk standard to permit the whole milk to be cut with water to increase the volume of liquid that can be labeled as milk. As time goes by, milk becomes more water added than what simply came out of some damn cow. So it is now becoming with organic food.

          Wine labeling has some of the same approach. Only a stated percentage of the contents of a bottle of wine produced in California need be wine that the label says it is. Artificial means to obtain certain wine tastes that might in the old days have been imparted by aging in oak barrels (like putting oak chips into wine resting in metal aging tanks) have been going on for years. Nowadays, the processing of “fine” wine is such that you need wait less time for it to “age”. The gradual chemical changes in tannins that smooth out red wines that are of varieties that improve with aging have now been speeded up to “make them more approachable at an earlier moment”. The California wine joke is that wine producing establishments/wineries are now laughingly referred to as winery refineries. Truth to tell, there is really no longer any reason to buy red wine for more than maybe $ 30 a bottle. At $ 65 a bottle you aren’t really getting better wine taste, and a great deal of really delicious wine (by comparison) can now be had for less than $ 15 a bottle. As people become better educated about wine, fewer will be buying the expensive stuff that is now passed off on rubes who delight in label snobbery. We are less and less a deferred gratification population. We want it now, dammit!

          The wine ponce population is dwindling. More folks just want a good tasting wine. As more folks drink wine, the percentage of the wine drinking population with sufficient wealth to buy the expensive stuff is less and less of the whole market. More reasonably priced wine that can be enjoyed right now is the direction of the wine business. Of course, dummied down wine is still sold with expensive labels to the bozos who attend wine pairing seminars. The stupid/ignorant will always be amongst us, and we will always have shit to sell to them with a label that says “this aint shit”. HAHAHAHAHA!

          There is still lousy wine, good wine and better wine. But paying big prices for wine no longer gets you value commensurate with the price. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find something worth paying $ 75 a bottle for. Treat yourself to a Ken Wright Pinot Noir from Oregon and you’ll see what I mean. But nothing coming out of Italy is worth $ 75 a bottle, although much of it costs that and more. You may have a year or two before the joint venture wines of Mondavi and Frescobaldi are priced way beyond value. Lucente is good and fairly priced, but Luce is not. Villa Banfi is only for the suckers. Brunello di Montalcino may be the best Italian joke of the decade. Ten years ago only the locals drank Sicilian wines, like Taurasi and Regaleali. Then Tony Soprano and Big Pussy Bonpensiero were drinking Regaleali on his television show, and it is now in stock everywhere for $ 65 a bottle. Kiss my ass! At $ 25 a bottle it’s great wine. At $ 65 a bottle it’s just ripping the tourists. It was entertaining to read lately that the actor who plays Big Pussy can’t get out of character and was recently sentenced to attend anger management classes for punching out his old lady. Frog wine has always been overpriced and often fraudulent. Some of it is delicious, but rarely worth the price. Spanish wine is very good, but Jorge Ordonez, the Robert Mondavi of Spain, is pumping up the price with great marketing bullshit. To be sure, he has improved the quality of the product, but the better Spanish wines are now rarely worth the price. Delicious Spanish wines can still be had reasonably but you have to know where to look. The Torres Gran Sangre de Toro is still a bargain, and the 2000 Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero is one its way through the roof in price, but still worth it under $ 25.

          Isn’t it interesting how a stupid program on CNN can open a train of thought, and by the time you’re through typing, it’s eight pages long and you have pulled the cork on another bottle of yummie vino. A Salute, Y’all!



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